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He is rude, defiant, mean and destructive

I have one kid [7 yo] who is just a wild thing, he always has been, but this past year he has gone from being just high energy to a rude, defiant, mean and destructive person. I have spanked this boy. I have tried redirecting (ok you want to run and yell? lets go outside), simply stating the problem,(i do not like it when you call me names!) brainstorming for solutions to a problem, time out, go to your room ...


This is an example of his day:


"Mom give me an apple now!"


I respond "I do not like to be yelled at. How do you ask for an apple?"


Child says "You give it to me now!"


This conversation keeps going on to a point of ridiculous.


Finally I ask him to leave and go upstairs. He screams in my face and calls me names. I spank. DH intercepts him on his way not to his room, but to the sleeping baby's room and redirects him to his own room. There he sits grumbling "I hate Mom I want to kill her."


A While later all seems well again, then he starts teasing his brother and sister relentlessly. He stops only for a few minutes when I intercede. Later we are going to the grocery store he is the most wonderful helpful boy you can imagine, helping get everyone ready and playing with the baby. At the store when Grandma asks "what do you want for X-mas?" He replies "Your fat a**!"


Amy Carpenter-Leugs

Did you give him the apple, or offer that he take one himself? The important thing is that he was hungry and needed food -- that should be addressed first and quickly.


I would have said, "I don't like being yelled at, but here's your apple, sweetie. Did you want it cut up?" Nicely -- no smarminess in my tone at all.


Now what would he have to yell about?


You'd be amazed how things start to change when you don't create the power struggle yourself.


To some, that looks like "rewarding" him for yelling. But there's another way to see it -- you have modeled kindness, and calmness. He has screamed out, "Do you love me?! Even now?!" And you have sweetly answered, "Yes. Here's your apple, love."


Here are some concepts that don't show up much in mainstream, controlling parenting, and that could really help you.


1. Unmet needs. Assume (because it's probably true) that your son is acting this way because he is unhappy at least some of the time. Try to help that -- it will probably take work. If he's in school, is he unhappy there? Can you help him with that? With three younger siblings, is he getting enough time with mom and dad? Could you get a sitter or have your husband stay with the others, so that you and your son can go on a special outing, something that he wants to do? There's just a lot to look at here, and it will take some time.


2. Relationship. A few years ago, I decided that having a loving relationship with my kids was more important than having control over them. So when I don't know what to do, I ask myself, "What will help the relationship?"


If my child answered Grandma the way yours did, I would find it a bit funny -- though I would smile, and make myself not laugh. I would say, "Very clever (because it was, in it's own way), but I think Grandma might be insulted. How about you tell your jokes to me next time?" I would apologize to Grandma if she looked like she needed that, and then I would move on, and not let Grandma yell or give him dirty looks or whatever.


If I made him apologize on the spot, it would only build resentment. If I showed understanding and forgiveness and looked at the positive (his cleverness, which may be all he was trying to showcase), then I open the door for us to talk about this later. Maybe he'll eventually want to apologize on his own -- maybe he's not ready for that yet. Either way, I'll have a lot more influence with him is our relationship is a good one.


Keep working at viewing your parenting through the lenses of unmet needs and relationship -- cling to those when you're not sure what to do.


Some books that can help:


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish


Parent-Teen Breakthrough: The Relationship Approach by Mira Kirshenbaum, Charles Foster


The second is for parents of teenagers, but the concepts can apply to much younger children, and it's just a really good perspective on the control vs. relationship issue.


I hope that helps. I hope your family and your son find some more peace soon.


I did not give it to him, but I did tell him to go get one. He is 7 and helps himself to food all the time.


I wonder if he wanted some mom attention at the moment -- someone to get an apple for him, nurture him with some food and special attention. I don't know that, of course -- it's hard to tell when the situation gets into screaming and spanking, because then it's harder to leave the door open for talking about it. (Although when I spanked, I usually went back and apologized and tried to talk about it -- I always felt we should be finding better solutions than what we were doing.)


So sometimes when he starts yelling, you might just say, "Wow, you really wanted that apple! Or is there something else bothering you? Do you need some mom time?" And then my son will usually become more aware of how he sounds (often he wasn't), and will explain what's wrong. It's great, because it gives him some skills and awareness about handling his own emotions.


I did not want to reward the behavior.


Someone else asked about "rewarding" angry behavior, and I wanted to share this story -- a place we're coming to after a couple of years of truly relationship-based approach -- growing maturity in my child helps, too.


My 8 yo was feeling upset that he lost at a video game -- not lashing out, just feeling bad -- and after he was mainly over it, I invited him to sit next to me and watch a show we both like. For just a second he started a scream at me -- and then he just stopped. He looked at me and said, a little embarrassed, "Uh, why did I do that?" And I just smiled and said, "'Cause you were mad -- come sit with me?" Everything in my tone said,"Let's let it go -- it happens -- let's just be together."


For him to catch himself and realize that he didn't want to scream was huge. It was completely his choice -- I don't punish him for yelling, though after it's over we will talk about how unpleasant it can be for all involved. He knew that if he screamed (and if I had the presence of mind to remain calm, which I did in this case), that I would not overreact or scream back, that I would try to listen and bring him a drink and sympathize. That I might walk away to protect my ears, but I would be near and my love would be present.


He's not going to do the same thing every time -- I would be unreasonable to expect it -- but this time, apparently he was able to just stop and enjoy the closeness without the screaming.


My son is only 8, but he's is finding the tools within himself to actually make choices about how to express his emotions, even in the heat of the moment. He's light-years ahead of me at that age. It's very cool.


Wow! That is just amazing! I am impressed by your son's maturity


Me too. <g> But that maturity could only come once he was given respect and freedom and tools to handle his very real emotions. Given those things, I'm finding that this kind of maturity is very natural to most kids as they get older.


I used to make all the choices for him -- "don't yell at me or else" (and "or else" -- a spanking or time-out or loss of privileges -- is not a real choice, no matter what conventional parenting says). When there were going to be scary consequences for voicing his pain or sadness or anger, then the only struggle he could fight was against me for the right to voice what was so strong and immediate inside of him. Now the choices are where they belong -- with him, and I am his helper and guide and support, not his adversary.



I did not want to reward the behavior.


Ren Allen

I used to think this way. It really, really helped me to get beyond rewarding or punishing of ANY kind (even in thought), in relation to behavior. I DO say"I don't like it when you talk to me that way, could you use a softer (or lower pitched, or phrased differently etc.) voice?


I don't think being kind to my child when they're frustrated is "rewarding"'s simply using better tools and helping them navigate a rough patch. They don't want to hurt us, they don't want to act inappropriately for the situation..they just don't have enough communication tools yet.


Generally speaking, my kids will change tones very quickly. Only because I have spent lots and lots of time changing not only how I react, but how I THINK. If I see their behavior as something that needs modification, rather than a method of communication, that gets in the way of healthy relationships.


Once I got beyond seeing them as flawed, only in need of better tools, it helped our relationships SO much and family conflicts have become a time of problem solving, not yelling matches or fights.


Once upon a time, my wicked SIL was visiting.:) When Sierra (3ish at the time) had a major melt down (temper tantrum in mainstream terms), I reached down to hug her and sympathize. According to my SIL I was "rewarding" bad behavior and it would only get worse over the years.


Interestingly enough, her intensities have decreased, she's very verbally capable and we have an awesome relationship with very LITTLE conflict. She's 8 now, a very secure, confident and bright young woman. I'm really glad I was able to ignore the common view that kindness would somehow make difficult behavior worse in children. It's just not true.



those occasions that I feel I must get MY way. Like I said, 95% of the time, she gets her way, and I change my schedule, juggle finances, etc. Yet my choice in that 5% of the time doesn't really meet the criteria of "Does this help our relationship", unless I recognize that I'm showing her that I have needs to be met, too.


Amy Carpenter-Leugs

The way you've worded your post, your situation seems to be lacking in balance and middle ground. A relationship is between two people. You can figure out what works for both of you. Yes, you need to recognize that your daughter, as a younger person who is dependent on you, may not always want to wait for her part of the solution, or may not be concerned with the whole situation. But the priority is still making it work for both of you, if that's possible.


The way you've described it above, it's almost as though you've decided that if you're not going to be a coercive parent, then you need to somehow be in a position of powerlessness -- until you can't stand it anymore, and then things have to be YOUR way. If you are feeling resentful on a regular basis, I promise you that your daughter can sense that.


This is like switching the role of jailer back and forth (with no warning to your little one, I'm guessing), instead of two equal human beings, with very different strengths and needs, coming to the table to work it out.


If one is not familiar with that kind of adult relationship between equals, then maybe some counseling or other kind of perspective is needed before the parent can really live a joyful, consensual life with his or her children.


Honesty helps -- being honest about yourself, but be careful about dumping it all on your kids or expecting them to meet your needs for you. Compassion helps. Balance helps. Sandra's page on Balance should help.


I think it's best to be honest about my needs on an ongoing basis, and not just when I get pushed past my limit. My children have always seen me take time for myself -- from a few minutes to read a book during the day, to going out for an evening each week. We've talked about meditation and breathing and needing alone time as something that everyone in our family can use, and they see me using those as gifts to myself.


I was probably pushed to my limits the most when I was learning how to "do" <G> peaceful parenting. There were a lot of changes, and a lot to learn -- plus my youngest was an infant growing into a very busy toddler, and we had started unschooling, so my oldest was now home all the time. I learned early on to say, "Mom needs a break," and we'd figure out how to give me one in a way that everybody could live with.


Do you think this is fair of me?


Honestly, the answer to this will be up to you and your daughter, and not me.


I'm not saying this balance is always easy for me, either. Life really isn't perfect -- I have an active 2.5 year-old that has his own ideas about sleep sometimes.


But I'm usually quite clear in my own mind on what I'm trying for -- a win/win situation for all involved. With my toddler, sometimes that means taking him in my room and letting him play or watch TV while I sleep right next to him. Sometimes it means driving him if it looks like that will help him sleep faster. And sometimes it means unplugging the TV, if I can't sleep through it -- and then he cries. I don't send him away, I stay near him and hold him. I don't blame him for his reaction -- I allow him the release of crying, and I sympathize. He often falls asleep shortly after that, with me right next to him.


In this and all situations, we keep our options open, we try to stay creative, we try to find what works.


Here's another story that has to do with sleeping -- as in, me sleeping. (Funny how that's a pattern.) <G> After a couple years of really working on my relationship with my older son (age 8), we are pretty good at negotiating what will work for us, often kind of intuitively. The other night I was very tired and just on the edge of feeling grumpy. Once I told my older son where I was at, he was quick to get ready for bed. I told him he didn't have to rush, that I could just give him a hug and he could eat his chips and take his time, but he really likes for me to tuck him in and scratch his back.


He really didn't mind going fast. I really didn't mind waiting a couple of minutes, and scratching his back, and singing a song, even though I nearly fell asleep next to him. <G> We were each willing and able to do something that gave us some nice time together. That was fair, in our house, on that night.


Things will change -- puberty will come, eventually, and other growth stages before that, and those will shake things up. But if I keep relating with my kids based on principles of respect, I can be reasonably sure that our relationship will not only survive, but continue to flourish.



Joyfully Rejoycing
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